Astronaut Airman launched to International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 20, 2017, carrying Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Expedition 51 Soyuz commander of Roscosmos, and Col. Jack Fischer, the Expedition 51 NASA flight engineer, into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 20, 2017, carrying Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Expedition 51 Soyuz commander of Roscosmos, and Col. Jack Fischer, the Expedition 51 NASA flight engineer, into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

Col. Jack Fischer, the Expedition 51 flight engineer, speaks during the State Commission meeting to approve the Soyuz launch of Expedition 51 to the International Space Station, April 19, 2017, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Soyuz rocket launched April 20, and carried Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander of Roscosmos, into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

Col. Jack Fischer, the Expedition 51 flight engineer, speaks during the State Commission meeting to approve the Soyuz launch of Expedition 51 to the International Space Station, April 19, 2017, at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Soyuz rocket launched April 20, and carried Fischer and Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander of Roscosmos, into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

Expedition 51 crew members, Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander of Roscosmos (left) and Col. Jack Fischer, NASA flight engineer (right) wave to family and friends as they depart the Cosmonaut Hotel to suit-up for their Soyuz launch to the International Space Station April 20, 2017, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Soyuz rocket launched at 1:13 p.m. April 20, and sent Yurchikhin and Fischer on a four and a half month mission aboard the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

Expedition 51 crew members, Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander of Roscosmos (left) and Col. Jack Fischer, NASA flight engineer (right) wave to family and friends as they depart the Cosmonaut Hotel to suit-up for their Soyuz launch to the International Space Station April 20, 2017, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The Soyuz rocket launched at 1:13 p.m. April 20, and sent Yurchikhin and Fischer on a four and a half month mission aboard the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 20, 2017, carrying Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Expedition 51 Soyuz commander of Roscosmos, and Col. Jack Fischer, the Expedition 51 NASA flight engineer, into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

The Soyuz MS-04 rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan April 20, 2017, carrying Fyodor Yurchikhin, the Expedition 51 Soyuz commander of Roscosmos, and Col. Jack Fischer, the Expedition 51 NASA flight engineer, into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. (NASA photo/Aubrey Gemignani)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --
When NASA began soliciting talent from the military in 1959 it had specific requirements – a jet pilot with a minimum of 1,500 flying hours, in excellent physical stature but shorter than 5 feet 11 inches, and a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in engineering. 
 
Since 1959, 84 Airmen fit that bill.
 

On April 20, 2017, Col. Jack D. Fischer became the most recent American Airman to travel to space in support of the International Space Station mission. He was joined in flight by Fyodor Yurchikin, a Russian cosmonaut. 

During his four-month long stay, Fischer will be assigned to Expedition 51, a team tasked with conducting more than 250 biological, biotechnology, physical and Earth-science experiments. There are hopes that information gathered will lead NASA to a mission to Mars. Fischer is also scheduled to take part in the fifth spacewalk of the year on May 12.

"The Air Force has been breaking barriers for 70 years and has been the nation's steward in space since 1954,” said Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow. “Colonel Jack Fischer and all Air Force astronauts represent the Air Force's commitment to space since the dawn of the space era."

The U.S. is one of 15 countries that contribute to the ISS mission, and roughly a quarter of the country’s astronauts have served in the Air Force. Astronaut Airmen have made extensive contributions to the American space program since 1959, and there are currently four active-duty Air Force astronauts who help advance the science of human spaceflight and technology for the benefit of all mankind.

In addition to its contributions to the ISS mission, the Air Force is effectively leading the modernization of the space architecture, transforming the way space forces train, develop and employ, and evolving its space operations centers to expand space situational awareness. This ensures the service is prepared for a threatened space environment.

To follow Fischer on his mission, go to https://twitter.com/Astro2fish.